The Transgender Day of Remembrance was this Friday. I admit to DateFail and had longstanding plans to go see a folksinger perform, having forgotten that November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. My privilege, let me show you it. And I chose to keep that commitment -- in part because I was going with my mom, whom I wanted to spend time with; and also because I know I'm antisocial and probably wouldn't hike out to Allston even if I stayed in town. But I felt kind of guilty about my choice all week.
I know at Cambridge Welcoming Ministries we have talked about how it's problematic that the one time that we (the queer and allied community) specifically remember trans people is at a memorial service. What kind of message does that give our young people (and our not-so-young people, for that matter)? Hence our having a TranSpire service in February of 2008. (I had forgotten, actually, that April 6 is Transgender Day of Empowerment.)
My best friend lives in Kansas City, and she was noting the lack of community events around the Transgender Day of Remembrance this year. She realized that probably the people who would be involved in creating those events are the same people who are involved in the World AIDS Day events -- which is happening in just over a week on December 1 -- and commented on how it's unfortunate that these two events often get lumped together.
This season in the Northern Hemisphere already feels like a season of death -- less sunlight, colder air. We wrap ourselves up in so many layers that we are barely recognizable, and we spend as little time as possible outside of temperature-controlled environments. We hide from each other and from ourselves.
Having read all the week's lectionary readings, one thing that struck me when I was reading up on the Transgender Day of Remembrance was the statement: "Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender [...] each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.." [cite]
Our Gospel reading today is from Jesus' trial before Pilate. Pilate keeps asking Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" and Jesus never answers. Jesus asks, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Jesus says, "My kingdom is not from this world." Jesus says, "You say that I am a king." But Jesus never says, "Yes I am" or "No I am not."
Jesus wasn't necessarily crucified for who he was but rather for who he was perceived to be.
Which I think is an interesting "in" into "Christ the King" Sunday. Jesus is not who we expect him to be.
There are things we think of when we hear the phrase "Christ the King," but that isn't necessarily what Jesus has in mind as to who he is.
(And wow do I feel really uncomfortable with all these male pronouns for Jesus. I mean, I know that the historical Jesus was incarnate in a male body -- though one of these days my best friend's gonna write a lesbian christology -- in epic prose poem format -- and it's gonna be awesome -- but still. I really hope someone somewhere is preaching today on a Jesus who is Sophia Wisdom as a drag king.)
And honestly, there's almost nothing about "kingship" in the actual lectionary. Our Psalm today includes God swearing to David:
One of the children of your bodyWell, David's children didn't sit continue on his literal throne forever, so we're already operating at some sort of metaphorical level -- some level of "When we say Jesus is 'King,' we don't mean it in the way you would normally understand that word."
I will set on your throne.
If your children keep my covenant
and my decrees that I shall teach them,
their children also, for evermore,
shall sit on your throne.
-Psalm 132 11b-12
It feels weird to me that Christ the King Sunday comes right before Advent, and then I remembered that this is the last Sunday of Year B. It makes sense to end the church year commemorating the fullness of the central figure of our faith. Though it makes for a bit of whiplash that we then move in to reenacting the expectant hope for the newborn Messiah (with a side of eschatology -- awaiting the Second Coming as well).
But the fullness of the central figure of our faith is not a reification of the structures of power and hierarchy we see operating in our world. To proclaim that Christ is King is to proclaim that Caesar is not -- to proclaim that all which has power over us now will not ultimately conquer us.
One of the things that struck me in the daily lectionary readings was from Zechariah -- Chapter 12, verse 10; and Chapter 13, verse 1:
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for me as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for me as one grieves for a firstborn child. [...] On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity."This struck me particularly being so close to the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
One of these days, the perpetrators of violence will recognize what they have done and will mourn their actions. We suffer, but that suffering will end. This is the theme of a lot of the daily lectionary readings -- often phrased in ways that are uncomfortable for us, with its language of one's enemies being crushed and etc., but an overarching message which I think is important for us to hear.
In 2 Samuel, God says to David: "One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land." This is the kind of ruler we are supposed to see in Christ -- one who is like the light of morning. Light in the darkness.
In the daily lectionary, we have 2 Kings about Hilkiah finding the book of the Law, and it's mostly a story I'm not all that interested in, but I like that we have a story about finding the Word of God. Admittedly, in this story it's very Law-centered, and the punchline is about routing all the idolatrous priests, but I still like this story about finding the Word. As our friends in the UCC say, "God is still speaking."
There is also stuff about the dwelling place of God. In the Psalm today, I love that David swears, "I will not sleep until I have found a dwelling place for my God." It is important for God to dwell among us. And it is important for us to make space for that. RJ of "when love comes to town" blog says, "There are two models of transformation in Advent: John the Baptist and the young Mary," and invites us this Advent to learn from the Marian model, to bear Christ for the world.
We are ending the Christian year and looking ahead to the next year -- Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time -- periods of preparation and periods of action, periods of mourning and periods of joy, periods of confusion and periods of clarity. This is what it is to be alive. This is what it is to be a Christian.
As the Christian year draws to a close and we prepare to begin anew, I invite us to reflect on what it means to claim Jesus Christ as the central figure of our faith -- what it means to make a dwelling place for this figure of light and healing.